Federal Agency Educational Resources: USGS

The Education Techie reviews tech tools and websites that can help students and teachers. This week, the Techie is taking a look at some of the online educational resources offered by federal agencies of the U.S. government. Today's article explores the website of the U.S. Geological Survey.

usgs logo

What Resources Are Available?

The website of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) features an impressive range of resources. The USGS is primarily responsible for producing maps and tracking the ecological and environmental status of the U.S. and North America. As a result, the website is a great resource for science and geography information. From real-time earthquake alerts to what the USGS calls the world's largest earth science library, teachers and students alike are probably going to find something relevant to their interests. Here are some of the features that I found most interesting.

Science in Your Backyard

This feature gives state-specific geographic and environmental information. There's a fact sheet for each state, including a small topographical image, population and elevation information. Each profile also features links and locally relevant news. You can look up facts about weather conditions as well as earthquake and volcanic activity for each state.

In addition to these news and information features, there are also maps and links to state agencies and USGS-related contacts. Data is presented in a clean, user friendly manner, and I think that even elementary school teachers could incorporate this feature into lesson plans.

Find a Map!

Find a Map! is a list of the many map databases offered by the USGS. This collection includes maps tracking regional ground motion, astrogeology and global crust thickness, just to name a few. Whether you're looking for a specific USGS map, or just browsing for something interesting, this is a great place to start. Maps are available for download, print and purchase. You can also access tools like the National Atlas and the USGS Earth Explorer, a satellite image of the planet that allows you to explore specific locations.

A Tapestry of Time and Terrain

usgs tapestry map

You can access a wealth of interesting and attractive maps through Find a Map!, but this one is a particularly striking and cool. It's a combined topographic and geologic map, with striking colors denoting specific geologic features and texture indicating topography. You can download a printable version of the map along with an 18-page pamphlet describing its features.

USGS CoreCast

I was surprised to find that the USGS offers a podcast in addition to its other materials. The podcast touches on current events in science, such as mass bird die-off and potentially devastating storms in California - two science news stories that got a lot of press in January 2011. The podcasts are 5-10 minutes long and focused on providing information rather than entertainment. There isn't much content other than a question-and-answer between the host and a USGS scientist.

The language isn't extremely technical, and I think this podcast could be incorporated into lessons for older elementary, middle and high school students. College students will probably find them more interesting than useful as a study tool. You can access CoreCast through the website, or subscribe in iTunes.

Where Can I Find These Resources?

If you want to look up the USGS's data bank on your state, or see information on other states in the U.S., click on this link. You can visit the Tapestry of Time and Terrain map directly, if you'd like. To listen to episodes of CoreCast in your browser, click here. If these resources have peaked your interest about what else you can find on the USGS website, visit the homepage and see what you can find!

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